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ALEXANDER, VON HUMBOLDT.        101
France. Although his proposed journey was now-
frustrated,, he did not lose sight of the once formed
plan, and .returned from Vienna to Paris, not alone
to speed his American work, but also thoroughly to
prepare himself for the perseveringly cherished plan
of an expedition to Asia, with the hope of a future
opportunity for its realization. With this view he
occupied himself for several years with the study of
the Persian language, so that he might, at his own
expense, proceed to India by way of Teheran or Herat.
He gained so accurate a knowledge of the structure
of the Asiatic mountain-chains from literary sources
that he was able to give critical judgments on the
explorers who had travelled to the Himmalaya moun-
tains. The idea of this journey had an especial charm
for him ; the mountain plains of central Asia, where
old traditions fix the first seat of the human race^
and the fabulous giant mountains of India, the curious
circumstances of the boundary of eternal snow; all
these things inspired him with an especial pre-
dilection for Asiatic studies. The French govern-
ment had, in the interests of science, proffered its
assistance to the execxition of this plan, and even the
king of Prussia, when he was in Aix-la-Ohapelle in
October and November 1818, had granted the cele-
brated nattiralist an. annual sum of 12,000 thalers,
and the expense of preparing the expedition for this
journey to Asia, but " particular circumstances/' which
we cannot reveal here, prevented the execution of his
favourite plan, and he at that time relinquished it
himself.
Before Hmnboldt's departure from Paris in 1818,
we must look back on the year 1812, to mention an
event which grieved Hmnboldt deeply when he heard
of it in Paris. This was the melancholy intelligence
that the town of Caracas, in which he and Bonpland
had spent two months, and where they had been so
hospitably entertained, had been destroyed on the
26th March, 1812, by a terrific earthquake, in conse-
quence of which nine to ten thousand inhabitants were